Google Inc. and Microsoft Corp. will incorporate a “kill switch” into the next versions of their smartphone operating systems as evidence mounts that such security measures may be deterring theft, the New York attorney general’s office said.
Mobile phone technology companies have faced pressure from public officials during the past year to add mechanisms to allow smartphone owners to disable the devices if they are lost or stolen, limiting their resale potential.
More than 30 percent of robberies in major cities involve mobile phones, with some instances of theft also including violence, according to the Federal Communications Commission. Following Apple Inc.’s release of a kill switch in September, thefts of iPhones in some cities “plummeted,” said New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, who helped start a law enforcement coalition aimed at addressing the thefts.
The Secure Our Smartphones Initiative group said in a report today that robberies involving Apple products in New York dropped 19 percent in the first five months of 2014 compared with the same period last year. In San Francisco and London, robberies involving Apple products dropped 38 percent and 24 percent, respectively, according to Schneiderman’s office.
“The statistics released today illustrate the stunning effectiveness of kill switches and the commitments of Google and Microsoft are giant steps toward consumer safety,” Schneiderman said in a statement.
According to the analytics firm ComScore Inc., Android has a 52.5 percent market share in the U.S., while Apple has 41.4 percent and Microsoft has 3.3 percent.
Android phones will make up 80.2 percent of global shipments this year, according to the research firm IDC. Apple, with its iOS platform, will have a 14.8 percent share, IDC said.
CTIA-The Wireless Association, a Washington-based group representing the wireless industry, said in April that its members would offer technology next year to let customers remotely wipe data from their devices and render them inoperable when stolen.
At the time, Schneiderman and San Francisco District Attorney George Gascon, who also leads the smartphone initiative along with London Mayor Boris Johnson, said that the offer fell short “of what is needed to effectively end the epidemic of smartphone theft” and that anti-theft features should be enabled on all devices by default.